Tuesday 26th March 2019
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Don urges new breed of CSOs to champion societal transformation

Civil society organisations (CSOs) are known for giving a voice to the voiceless with the aim of transforming society for the better. But CSOs are now being asked to move away from providing simplistic solutions to complex problems, since they often end up worsening situations.

Prof. Chris Gordon
Prof. Chris Gordon

“This is because the world has changed tremendously over the last decade,” says, Prof. Chris Gordon of the Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies (IESS), University of Ghana, Legon. He notes that “while successes have been secured in promoting human development and reversing some environmentally unsustainable trends, new problems have emerged,longstanding problems remain inadequately addressed and many diverse problems are becoming more tightly entwined.”

Prof. Gordon made these remarks when he chaired the opening session of the 9th Annual Civil Society Review of the Natural Resources and Environment Sector. The two-day review was on the theme:“Review of CSOs-Stakeholder Engagements on Effective Natural Resources Governance in Ghana: Challenges and Prospects.”

This year’s review enabled members to take stock of past communiqués issued on the natural resources and environment sector over the years and to evaluate their implementation by stakeholders. It took place in Accra from November 29 to 20, 2018 and was organised by the KASA platform, an umbrella body of CSOs working in the natural resources and environment sector.

Prof. Gordon reasoned that “to ensure effective transformation in today’s society, will require a new type of CSOs, who will think outside the box and come up innovative solutions that can tackle the complex problems, multitude of factors and the intricacy of global development challenges associated with transformation.”

Commenting on the theme, Prof. Gordon queried CSOs to ask themselves the kind of governance they wanted to see. “The crux of the 9th Annual Review is Effective Natural Resources Governance. So first, we need to ask ourselves what sort of governance we want.”

He elaborated by highlighting three options of governance that CSOs could opt for, saying, “Is it governance for transformations – that creates the conditions for transformation in socio-technical-ecological systems to emerge; or governance of transformation –to actively trigger and steer a transformation process; or transformation in governance – which is a transformative change in governance regimes?”

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Prof. Gordon urged CSOs to select the governance option that will best address the local situation, which are easily masked by global trends and uneven distribution of environmental pressures and impacts, such as food insecurity, water stress and vulnerability.

For instance, he wondered why some people are determined to take advantage of the on-going environmental degradation.“The world is drowning in plastics and others think that the financial gains of individuals through galamsey are enough to pay for the reversal of the damage to our waters, our forests and our health.”

Prof. Gordon looked forward to as trengthened CSO functioning in Ghana’s natural resources sector and that of the entire West African Sub-region.

As part of the opening session, optional statements were presented by representatives of some CSOs and NGOS. Boakye Twumasi-Ankra of Tropenbos Ghana used the occasion to introduce the organisation to the KASA members, saying it evolved out the erstwhile Tropenbos International Ghana. He said Tropenbos has contributed a wealth of knowledge to the forestry sector and pioneered innovative measures for tackling environmental challenges.

Mr. Twumasi-Ankra mentioned a key example as the multi-stakeholder dialogue, which he said was a unique approach used to explore negotiated solutions to illegal chainsaw milling in Ghana. According to him, “the approach culminated in policy and technical options, including a domestic market policy and the artisanal milling concept… that helped to address domestic market illegalities under the FLEGT-VPA implementation in Ghana.”

FLEGT-VPA is the Forest, Law, Enforcement,Trade and Governance initiative and the Voluntary Partnership Agreement between Ghana and the European Union. The aim is to foster trade in legal timber and ensure sustainable forest management through tackling and discouraging illegalities within the forest sector.

He commended KASA for coordinating the actions of the various coalitions in the natural resources and environment sector and called for stronger partnerships and concerted efforts among CSOs in the natural resources sector in line with SDG 17, which focuses on partnerships.

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The representative of SNV Ghana recounted how for the past three years, the organisation along with other project partners including the Forestry Commission’s National REDD Plus Secretariat, Climate Law and Policy, and the KASA Initiative has been working on the multi-country project known as Operationalising National Safeguard Requirements for Results-based Payments from REDD+.

He said the project, which is being implemented in Ghana, Peru and Vietnam has made significant progress since its inception in 2016, with support from the German Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. Progress made so far include the establishment of a dedicated technical safeguards sub-working group; and the development of various documents including a Safeguards Information System Design; Principle, Criteria and Indicators for monitoring REDD+; and Hotspot Intervention Area Management Plan for the Juabeso and BiaLandscape.

During the general plenary sessions, it was realised that the coalitions in the various sectors had made some form of progress. For instance, the forest and wildlife sector has seen the of the Timber Resource Management and Legality Licensing Regulations, 2017, LI 2254and the development of Guidelines for Assemblies Utilisation of Timber Royalties.

The water, sanitation and hygiene several innovations including the launch of the Media Coalition against Open Defecation.

The oil and gas sector appeared to have made the most gains during the year under review in monitoring the sub-sector’s performance. Per their report, Ghana scored 67 out of 100 points in 2017 on the global oil governance index, which placed the country 13th among a list of 89countries and 2nd in Africa. Moreover, Ghana’s sovereign wealth fund was assessed as the second best governed among 34 funds with the best performances recorded in value realisation, revenue management, and the creation of enabling environment for citizens’ participation in the sector. But the group noted that the country scored poorly in national budgeting.

Modest gains were made in the rest of the sectors namely mining; environment and climate change; land; and fisheries.

The review ended on the note that the various coalitions have a lot of work to do to make the needed impact in the sector,even in the face of dwindling funding sources. Members were optimistic that through strategic partnership activities, they will make meaningful progress, so that come the next annual review, which will be towards the end of 2019, a lot of success stories will be documented and told.

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In an interview, the Chairperson of KASA, Mrs. Hannah Owusu Koranteng, said KASA has performed creditably since its inception initially as a donor funded initiative. She said the review process is mainly to help identify strategies and advocacy tools to be more effective in working closely with the government for the benefit of the entire nation.

Mrs. Koranteng explained that this process was important because “as a nation we’re not changing our policies, so the focus on capital will not change. But as a people we need to change to make capital more sensitive, effective and responsive in meeting the needs of communities.”

She looked forward to a future of effective collaboration among key stakeholders. “In the years ahead, we hope to strengthen collaboration with government, state and citizens to foster unity for a common purpose, including ensuring the rights of nature.”

The facilitator of this year’s Review process, Tony Dogbe, described it as “a very introspective process,” adding that “now, we need to define the kind of governance we want to see in the natural resources and environment sector.”

He proposed ways in which CSOs could engender and maintain their effectiveness, saying members need to start engaging citizens in order to facilitate a citizens-led advocacy, which can be effective in bringing about changes. Furthermore, members needed to build their capacity in courtroom advocacy, gather evidence in monitoring and tracking,develop independent reports as well as initiate bills and policies through consultations with communities, government, researchers, academia and the private sector.

Mr. Dogbe also urged CSOs to become professional and strategic in budgeting.

By Ama Kudom-Agyemang

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